United States, October 5, 2019 (SSNA) — The Greater Gatjaak Community in the United States has harshly criticized the defection of what it described as a ‘staged’ surrender perpetuated by “self-serving politicians and a bribed General.”
In a press statement obtained by the South Sudan News Agency (SSNA), the community explains that Gatjaak sections were outraged and disappointed after they saw information minister Micheal Makuey Lueth reading a letter on SSBCTV, claiming that all Gatjaak sections have joined Salva Kiir’s government.
“The Gatjaak Community in the United States would like to inform the international community and the people of South Sudan in the diaspora and back home that the recent defections in Maiwut area were staged by a few self-serving politicians, namely Gatluak Riek Jaak, Gew Minylang Ding, Pal Tut Koat, and one bribed general Gen. Ochan Puot Buop,” the statement reads in part, adding, “these people were sons of Chiewaw (WADU) subsection of Gatjaak Community.”
The statement also asserts that a few individuals from one subsection of the Greater Gatjaak Community should not be treated as if all Gatjaak sections defected to the government. The document further asserts that the majority of the Chiewaw subsection, especially civilians stand with the rest of the Gatjaak sections.
“The majority of Chiewaw are still with Gatjaak and fully committed to the cause of struggle for freedom, equality, and justice for all South Sudanese—the vision of the SPLM/A-IO under His Excellency Dr. Riek Machar Teny-Dhurgon,” the statement declares.
The leaders of the Gatjaak community in the United States also accused General James Ochan Puot of using harassment and intimidation as a tool to force innocent Chiewaw civilians to join Juba’s regime.
The document further states that Bol Ruach Rom who is a government governor for Maiwut state currently stationed in Pagak was initially found to be supplying General Ochan Puot with light weapons and ammunition before the defection, a move the community believes violates the revitalized peace agreement. The statement calls on the international community to investigate Salva Kiir and Bol Ruach Rom for violating the September 2018 peace agreement.
The statement was signed by Gatjaak community chairman Mr. Kaway Guin, the entire leadership including representatives of Gatjaak sections.
The South Sudan News Agency understands that the cause of the defection of Gen. Ochan Puot began a few years back but escalated in 2017. Initially, a group of Chiewaw felt that the SPLM/A-IO former Governor for Adar State General Stephen Pal Kun Kek appointed Maiwut commissioner illegally. The group claimed that some members of Chiewaw community do not like the commissioner and that Governor Stephen Pal must remove him and appoint a different Chiewaw son or daughter. As the situation intensifies, Gen. Stephen Pal complied with Chiewaw demand and removed the commissioner. After he dismissed the commissioner, he appointed a different person who was also a Chiewaw son. However, some Chiewaw denounced the new commissioner, saying the man “was an agent of Gen. Stephen Pal.” There was a violent environment in and around Maiwut soon after the second appointment. An attack was carried out against Gen. James Ochan soldiers stationed in Maiwut. General James Ochan’s forces quickly accused forces allies to Gen. Khor Chuol of being behind the attack, then General Ochan soldiers responded by attacking SPLA-IO positions in Merdiet and Turuw.
Before the defections, a team consisted of Gatjaak politicians, religious, and community leaders was sent by the SPLM/A-IO to meet General Ochan but he refused to meet them. This is where things get heated which subsequently led to the defection of Gen. James Ochan Puot on September 22.
One prominent South Sudanese analyst who hails from the Gatjaak community and who asked his name not be publihsed because of the sensitivity of the matter was asked by the SSNA if he has anything to say about the defection of General Ochan Puot.
“General James Ochan’s defection does not surprise me. The reality is that his defection is full of shameful holes which I believe he will realize sooner or later. The fact is that there is nothing to embrace in Juba,” he asserted.
“I respect General James Ochan as a person. However, I was somewhat puzzled by some of his actions in weeks and days leading to his defection,” he says, adding, “it sounds to me like somebody out there is claiming victory without a real enemy, we will see.”
Gatjaak Community is the biggest community among all Nuer sections in the United States.